Year A – Advent 2 – Matthew 3:1-12

Matthew 3:1–12  1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Overview of Matthew’s Gospel – Matthew shows Jesus as a Priest, filled with teaching like that of faithful priests. Jesus is shown to be a greater Moses who provides a new Exodus in Himself. Thus, there are five “books”/sermons in Matthew which relate to the five books of Torah, ending with, “When Jesus had finished saying these things . . .” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; and 26:1). This first Gospel is a “priestly” foundation for the Church and thus is a recap of the history of Israel to fulfill the Law/Prophets (5:17) (outline below). Jesus is called out of Egypt, i.e., apostate Israel. Herod is like a new pharaoh. “Herod” signals that innocents die (ch. 2, 14, Ex. 1:16). The miracles and fulfillments of Matthew demonstrate that Israel is unfit to be the priestly nation, hence 12 miracles in chs. 8-9 “restore” Israel. Jesus is a new David (king) and prophet (Elijah) (12-14). Followers of Jesus are to be a true “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6) cleansing the nations. Yet, this new Torah does not end with the death of Moses (Dt. 34:10), but with the resurrection of One greater than Moses. Finally, Jesus is a greater Cyrus (the Lord’s anointed) and just like the last verse of the Hebrew Bible (2 Chr 36:23), there is a commission: Since this anointed One has all power and authority in heaven and on earth, He commands: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (28:20).

Insight – As the overview indicates, Matthew is very connected to promise and fulfillment in the Hebrew Scriptures. John the Baptist’s actions may seem bizarre until we understand the background. Throughout Matthew there is a frequent use of this kind of phrase: “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled” (2:23). So also did John fulfill prophecy as the forerunner of Christ. Many people miss the fact that his baptism is like the previous baptisms of Israel. He was to go “in the spirit and power of Elijah” who divided the water of the Jordan (2Kgs. 2:8ff). John “prepared the way” for Jesus quite literally. John was “preaching a baptism of repentance” at the Jordan river (Mk. 1:4). Literally, John was in the wilderness beyond the borders of the Land where they “went out to him” (Mk. 1:5). He called the people to follow his “path” outside of Israel and to “turn” (repent) and cross the Jordan to enter the Land in renewal. John’s baptism for Israel was a sign of passing or crossing into renewed Israel to prepare for Messiah. Deuteronomy looks to a time when they “cross the Jordan” being led by Joshua (Dt. 4:21). The rest of the New Testament draws upon various threads of this crossing into Christ, through death and into resurrection life on the other side (Rom. 6:3-4, Col. 2:11-12). Therefore, John was baptizing a renewed Israel in preparation for Jesus.

Child Catechism – Why did John baptize? John baptized to call Israel to repent and get ready to believe in Jesus.

Discussion – Do you remember who John’s father was and what he did?  . . . If Zacharias was a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, then why did John lead people away from the temple to be washed?

Prayer – Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Year A – Advent 2 – Romans 15:4-13

Romans 15:4–13  – For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; 10 and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; 11 and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; 12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Overview  – Chapter 15 is the Hallelujah Chorus to the book of Romans. Handel’s libretto is taken from the “seventh trumpet,” – “The kingdoms of this world [is] become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). Romans 15, like Rev. 15, brings Israel’s history to its climax. God through Jesus, has opened the way of mercy to the nations. This is a thick statement summing up whole sections of Romans (ch. 3-4, 9-11). We must strive reach out to those that not like ourselves in this congregation. Psalm 117, cited by Paul, made clear that the goal of the gospel includes all nations. As John Piper has written, “Let the nations be glad.” Shared worship with all nations and all kinds of people is central to Paul’s vision. Paul concludes with a litany of fulfillment texts. These are all precisely what he began with: the promises to the fathers are being fulfilled in the new covenant church. “Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy” (15:8-9). The promise of God is for Jews and Gentiles, all humanity, to come into Christ as a New Man (Eph. 2:15), a new Adam or humanity. The ending of chapter 15 makes clear the “missionary purpose.” The message of unity in Christ over differences of status, ethnic identity and cultural differences, when accepted, becomes the foundational message for church planting. A church that sees the promises of God coming to bear can reach out and establish more churches in different contexts. Romans 1 reads right through to chapter 15.  1:15 Thus I am eager also to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome. . .  15:20 I desire to preach where Christ has not been named, 15:22  This is the reason I was often hindered coming to you. 15:23 But now there is nothing more to keep me in these regions, and I have for many years desired  to come to you…”

Insight – What would you find if you read the book of Romans backwards? You would see how Paul has been making the argument for the salvation of all nations in a new Body, the Church as the goal of his arguments about sin (chs. 1-2), justification in Christ (chs. 3-5), life in Christ (chs. 6-8), Israel’s role (chs. 9-11), and application to the Church (chs. 12-16). What was prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah and the Psalms, for example) is coming about through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Child’s Catechism – How will God get praise from all nations? He will be praised as all nations accept the gospel that Jesus is the Savior.

Prayer – O Lord our God, thank You that in Your wonderful redemptive plan, You have destined all nations and peoples to know deliverance through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Grant that we may continue in faithfulness to Him as we rejoice in the harvest that all nations will become worshipers of the true God. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Year A – Advent 2 – Psalm 72

Solomon’s Reign is a Type of the Universal Reign of Jesus

Give the king your judgments, O God, And your righteousness to the king’s Son.  He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.  The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.  He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor.  They shall fear you as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.  He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth.  In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, Until the moon is no more. . . . Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!  And blessed be His glorious name forever!  And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.  Amen and Amen.

Summary – This messianic Psalm, Psalm 72,  looks to Solomon in the near future as a type of the Ultimate “King’s Son” (vs 1).  This Son will judge people righteously, and we recall the story of Solomon and the two women arguing over the child (1 Kings 3:16ff).  This Son will have dominion “from sea to sea” (vs 8), and Solomon indeed ruled all the land from the “River” to the sea (1 Kings 4:20ff), the allotted portion of Israel.  This Son would receive gifts from the “Kings of Sheba” (vs 10), and the “gold of Sheba will be given to him” (vs 15).  We remember the Queen of Sheba’s visit of course, in which she gave Solomon 120 talents of gold (1 Kings 10:10).  Solomon was however, as a typological shadow of Christ who was to come, an imperfect fulfillment of this Psalm.  Only Christ could be feared “as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations” (vs 5).  Only Christ’s Kingdom can encompass the whole earth (vs. 8) and have “all kings” bow before Him (vs 11).  Only Christ could save “souls” (vs 13).  The final refrain of the Psalm in vss. 18-19 indeed points to the Lord alone as the doer of “wondrous things.”  Solomon was the second step in the line of David’s throne and kingship.  But we see here again, like we saw in Psalm 122 last week, that David’s throne came with an inherent aspect of longevity and eternality.  Christ the true Son of David is the ultimate fulfillment of that great line.

Insight – Do you ever feel like the world is ignoring God?  People try to take the meaning of Christmas away, and ignore Jesus’ coming, but King David tells us about the “king’s Son” who is expected.  This son of the King will become king and will be followed forever.  He was promised to be like rain that waters the earth, and would bring righteousness and peace.  As we look forward to Christmas, this promise about Jesus’ coming should give us great hope!  Jesus is “living water” (John 4:10) who “waters” those who have faith in Him, and the night of His birth, angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).  Though many people ignore the true King Jesus, His kingdom is everlasting and will finally submit all nations to it.

Child Catechism – How long will Jesus’ kingdom last?  Forever.

Discussion – How does Jesus “bring justice to the poor of the people”?  How does He “save the children of the needy”?

Prayer – O God of Israel, who only does wondrous things, blessed be your glorious name forever.  This Advent season we earnestly pray that the whole earth be filled with your glory.  Amen.

Year A – Advent 2 – Isaiah 11:1-10

Isaiah’s Messianic Vision – New Covenant Fulfillment (Isaiah 11:1-10)
Isaiah 11:1–10 – A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.   6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Isaiah’s Messiah will Fulfill the Davidic Covenant (vv 1-3) – In the previous verses the Lord brings judgment, “He shakes his fist at the mountain of the daughter Zion” and will “cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe.” Then something happens in fulfillment of God’s promise to David, “a shoot will spring” from Jesse (David’s father). God has kept his promise to put David’s heir on the throne, Messiah Jesus.

Overview – Isaiah weaves together both the judgment due to Israel and the nations as well as the promises of God’s covenant faithfulness to bring about deliverance for His people. This passage follows from an indictment in ch. 10, culminating in this image: Isaiah 10:34 – “He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall.” But “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse” (11:1). This Davidic Messiah will fulfill God’s covenant promises:  1) Isaiah’s Messiah will fulfill the Mosaic Covenant (vv 4-5) – The Messiah of Isaiah will embody the very justice of the Torah [law] of Moses. What fleshly judges and corrupt kings could not do will be done by Messiah. He will see the heart and judge righteously and with “fairness” for the afflicted. His Word is the very instrument of bringing justice. He is clothed with righteousness and faithfulness. 2) Isaiah’s Messiah will fulfill the New Covenant (vv 6-10) – The rule of this Messiah will result in universal peace as predicted in many new covenant prophecies (Is. 9:7, Ez. 34:25, 37:26). Isaiah pictures this by reference to natural predators vs their prey, wolf/lamb; leopard/goat; calf/lion; cow/bear; lion/ox. These images may refer to the aggressive nations threatening lamb-like Israel. He finishes the image with children playing with snakes. Because, “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD . . .”

Insight  – Many people can’t see how this prophecy will be fulfilled before the coming of Christ. But it is important to see that this glorious, yet incremental fulfillment hinges upon one point, “in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse.” As soon as nations and men come to their own desolation (stumps), and resort the budding plant, the root of Jesse, then the peace shall avail. This is to be fulfilled in the gospel victory of salvation to all the nations (as is promised in Rev. 5:7-9), when all the “families of the earth shall worship Jesus” (Ps. 22).

Child Catechism – When will we get to play with poisonous snakes and not get hurt? When all the nations turn to Christ.

Discussion – When do you think “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” and how will that happen?

Prayer – Almighty Father, you have promised peace on earth through Christ, grant that we may be faithful to express the gospel in our lives and words so that the knowledge of the LORD may be full in the earth. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Romans 13:11-14

Casting Away the Works of Darkness (Rom. 13)

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  Romans 13:11–14

Overview – In ch. 12, Paul explains how the body “faces” inward. We are “living sacrifices” and are part of the “body” (new man/’adam). A body member is “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think” (12:3). We are prone to exalt certain gifts and to be a “respecter of persons” in the worst sense and to think much more highly of our kinds of Christians than others, we demean serving gifts and exalt knowledge/leadership gifts. The body example refutes this. Which part of your body would you like chopped off? Jesus said “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:44).  In ch. 13, Paul explains how the body “faces” outward toward Roman society. Paul is a Roman citizen and knows history of Israel relating to pagan society. Remember Joseph (in Egypt), Daniel (Babylon), and Nehemiah (Persia). They submitted themselves to pagan rulers under God and served their world emperor (like the eagle face of the cherubim). Paul is able to say “submit” with straight face to those in even Caesar Nero’s household (Phil. 4:22).  Submit to the exousia – “powers that be” in general and trust in God’s sovereign power (1 Tim. 2). Thus Christians should be better citizens than most pagans. The “powers” exercise the sword (mache) to punish evil doers – not to rehabilitate them, but to deter them with death if need be. Christians should not be trouble makers nor seek methodological revolution to bring about change which was exactly why the Jews were banished from Rome under Claudius (49 A.D. cf Acts 18:2). Rom. 13 does not contemplate righteous and necessary occasions for civil disobedience (such as in the case of Shadrack et al, 3:12), it only shows one bowing gesture of the outward facing body. There are exceptions and desperate times call for desperate self-sacrificial measures (“for such a time is this” Esther). Thus, Romans 13 should not be used to prop up Nazi-ism or Stalinism or a future totalitarianism instituted by an American President or U.N. Czar. We can do our duties by rendering what is due (tax, custom, fear or honor). Love is right motivation in fulfilling law. And in acting out of love, we remember the “the time.” There is a temporal aspect of this. In the original setting judgment was near (70 AD) and the upheavals of the Roman world are coming (68 AD). “We know the time, that it is already the hour…” (13:11). Therefore don’t “eat, drink and be merry” but get ready and be alert. Make no provision for the flesh. Keeping with the theme of Advent 1: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

Discussion and Insight – What are some ways in your life to “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts”? Are there temptations you could overcome if you did not “provide” for those opportunities?

Prayer – [As you pray this the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, be mindful of the connections to Romans 13 in this prayer written by Thomas Cranmer in the 1500s.] Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Psalm 122

A Song of Ascents.  Of David.  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”  Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem–built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  “May they be secure who love you!  Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”  For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Summary – The Songs of Ascent (Pss. 120-134) were festal songs used by Israel as they “ascended” to Jerusalem for holidays, sacrifices, etc.  As the third in this set, Ps 122 follows sort of a “local progression.”  In Ps 120, the speaker/singer speaks of sojourning “in Meshech” (a warring tribe) and dwelling among “Kedar” (a pagan Ishmaelite tribe), “among those who hate peace.”  The singer begins singing the Songs of Ascent among warlike peoples, and heads towards Jerusalem (Heb. “Foundation of Peace).  In Ps 121, the singer “lifts up his eyes to the hills.”  Jerusalem is among the hills (Ps 125:2), and so the singer is looking towards his destination.  In our Psalm, 122, the singer has arrived in Jerusalem.  He was “glad” at the prospect of going up (vs 1), and is now standing within the walls (vs 2).  Prayer for the peace of that central city is a large part of the Psalm as well, with the purpose being maintaining the glorious state of the “house of the LORD” (vs 9) which resided in Jerusalem.

Insight – If you have read the Lord of the Rings, you know that Minas Tirith expected the return of their true King, the heir of Isildur.  Their kings were all descendants of their first king in Middle Earth, Elendil, though their power was less by the time of their last king, Earnur.  Finally, Aragorn, the heir arrived and began his kingdom.  As Advent season begins, our sights are set on the coming of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.  In this Psalm, we read about the capitol of His Kingdom, Jerusalem, where “thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David” (vs 5).  Though there was a great span of time between the last King of Israel and Christ, Christ is the Heir of David who arrived and began His kingdom by disarming the previous rulers.  This week, be thankful for Christ’s throne, from which He shall reign forever and ever.

Child Catechism – Which king was Jesus descended from?  King David.

Discussion – What does the peace of Jerusalem mean in the New Covenant?  How can you seek the peace of Jerusalem?

Prayer – Our Lord and King, we give thanks to your name for bringing us within your gates and adopting us as your children.  We pray for peace among your people as we consider the coming of the Prince of Peace, for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and also for the sake of the whole house of the Lord.  Help us to strive for the peace of our heavenly city, that the nations would see its light and come to it.  Through Christ, Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah’s Messianic Vision – The Last Days Mountain (Isaiah 2:1-5)
Now it will come about that In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. 2:3 And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 2:4 And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. 2:5 Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Overview –  The Last Days. Isaiah’s vision of the Messianic time is that “in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD” will be raised up. This refers to the “last days” of the Old Covenant ( Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2). The NT was written during the transition of the two covenant ages, after the reign of Messiah had begun (1Cor. 15:22-25). The Apostles made clear that the “heavenly city of Jerusalem” (Zion) had been raised up through the ascension of Christ (Heb. 12:22, Gal. 4:26).

The Last Mountain. The “last” or the “chief” mountain is Jerusalem above (Heb. 12:22) where Christ sits at God’s right hand and is manifest in Resurrection Day worship. The result of Zion’s exaltation is that “all the nations stream to it”  to go the “house of the God of Jacob” (2:2-3) to worship. Converted peoples from all nations come to learn to “walk in His paths.” He will send His word forth from this place, which is the Church of Jesus Christ, manifest in diverse congregations through all the world.

Insight – The Last Battle. The result of the Word going forth from Zion (the new covenant Church which is the meeting of heaven and earth) is that justice is rendered (2:4), peace is cultivated and the nations walk in the light of Christ (2:4-5). The well-known poetry of this passage is beautiful: “swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Implements of war will become productive tools, rather than destructive weapons. This is our hope for the gospel victory through the spiritual warfare of Isaiah’s Messiah, ruling in our midst.

Child Catechism – What is the “mountain of the house of the Lord”? The Church of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Lord, as we rest in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, grant that His gospel would transform the nations in peace and bring about the change poetically pictured in Isaiah that nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war again, but rather walk in Your light. In Christ’s name and for His cause we pray, Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Matthew 24:36-44

Advent According to Matthew (01) – The Advent of Judgment

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 45 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Matthew 24:35–46

Summary –  Most ancient literature used devices of structure embedded in the content, such as repeated patterns, allusions, recapitulations, parallels, etc. Therefore it should not be surprising as a Gospel written to primarily Jewish readers by a Jew, Matthew contains deeper structure. Ireneaus said that the life of Jesus recapitulates the history of Israel. James B. Jordan provides an elaborate parallelism of the structure (the chiasm).

A. Genealogy (past), 1:1-17
B. First Mary and Jesus’ birth, 1:18-25
C. Gifts of wealth at birth, 2:1-12
            D. Descent into Egypt; murder of children, 2:13-21
E. Judea avoided, 2:22-23
F. Baptism of Jesus, 3:1–8:23
G. Crossing the sea, 8:24–11:1
H. John’s ministry, 11:2-19
I. Rejection of Jesus, 11:20-24
J. Gifts for the new children, 11:25-30
K. Attack of Pharisees, 12:1-13
L. Pharisees plot to kill the Servant, 12:14-21
K’ Condemnation of Pharisees, 12:22-45
J’ Gifts for the new children, 13:1-52
I’ Rejection of Jesus, 13:53-58
H’ John’s death, 14:1-12
G’ Crossing the sea, 14:13–16:12
F’ Transfiguration of Jesus, 16:13–18:35
E’ Judean ministry, 19:1–20:34
            D’ Ascent into Jerusalem; judgment on Jews, 21:1–27:56
C’ Gift of wealth at death, 27:57-66
B’ Last Marys and Jesus’ resurrection, 28:1-15
A’ Commission (future), 28:16-20 –  from James B. Jordan

Christ’s descent into Egypt (ch. 2) parallels His ascent into Jerusalem (chs. 21-25). Very early in Matthew, there are allusions to judgment (2:15, 18, Herod; 3:1ff John, ). It is clear that the coming of Jesus was not a Hallmark affair with red bows and finery.  Christ came to offer salvation/deliverance, but as had been the case with Israel before, this would include judgment. Our text (Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary) is part of the Olivet or the Apocalyptic Discourse, the climactic passage of judgment in Matthew. Jesus speaks of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and his coming in judgment (24:1ff). The time-frame is stated, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (24:34). This a very clear first century indication of the fulfillment, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus’s Jewish Wars (written by an eyewitness to the events) gives seven cosmic signs (of sun, moon and stars) which happened as this destruction approached. This judgment was like the flood of Noah. While the prophetic word had been spoken, those unbelieving were going about their lives “normally” (24:38), then judgment happens when it is not expected. Those “taken away” were not Raptured. They were taken in judgment (e.g., like the flood, 24:40). Therefore, the main exhortation is to “be on the alert” (24:42), “be ready” (24:44), and to be found as a faithful servant when He comes (24:46).

Insight – If this passage is about 70 A.D., does it apply to us? Yes, for two reasons: 1) The destruction of Jerusalem is a “type” of the end of the world (Matthew Henry, Wesley, Jamison Faucett Brown, et al). Wesley says “the great day, which was typified by the destruction of Jerusalem.” 2) The emphasis here is on the calamity and judgment that will befall those who are not “on the alert” (24:42), or “ready” (24:44), or not being faithful servants when He comes (24:46). While we may not now face an historical judgment: say, the fall of USA – yet being ready and alert spiritually always applies. We need to confess our sins and walk in love. We need to put away bitterness and love others. We always need to get our house in order spiritually and relationally so that we can joyfully meet our Lord Jesus at any time. Jesus may not be coming soon, but you may soon go to him.

Child Catechism – How does the first century judgment of Jerusalem affect the way that we live? We are must live and always be “ready” and faithful since we do not know when Christ will come for us or when we will go to Him.

Discussion – How did Jesus demonstrate to those who killed Him that He was the Anointed King? [He predicted His coming in judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus said in His trial: “hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Matthew 26:64]

Prayer – Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.